By Wendy Laursen 2015-09-29 20:39:28
Some 50 percent of crews working on offshore support vessels are willing to compromise safety rather than say “no” to clients or senior management, while nearly 80 percent believe commercial pressures could influence the safety of their working practices.
The findings come from a newly published report on workboat and OSV safety commissioned by operations and maintenance management software specialist Helm Operations.
The independent report summarizes six months of research by Fathom Maritime Intelligence and primary data collection and analysis by Southampton Solent University. It draws on original analysis of Port State Control detention records, feedback from 50 individuals from various offshore companies, incident case studies and input from leaders in best practice.
50 percent of respondents indicated that they had experienced specific challenges relating to safety culture whilst working offshore. Whilst some of these were specific to the geographical region they were operating in, others were common across a number of regions worldwide. Some of the challenges include:
The main challenge associated with offshore work in different global regions highlighted by the survey, was the weather. Unfavorable weather conditions and particularly the subsequent effect this had on a vessel’s exterior surfaces, heightened safety problems for the crew working outside on-deck. This was acknowledged as a particular challenge in the North Sea.
Overall the study made apparent that there is a general lack of clarity regarding standards operated by individual countries and regions. Different regions also have different levels of adherence to safety procedures. For example, “safety is not so important in Persian and Mexico Gulf,” said one survey respondent.
Language and Communication
Language and communication is a recurring challenge faced by offshore crews. Survey respondents mentioned issues in the Far East, Baltic and Middle East, with difficulties arising from poor pronunciation of English, particularly at safety briefings.
Many crews around the world rely on their jobs to support their families back home. Many of these people would be understandably unwilling to risk anything that could put their jobs in jeopardy, particularly challenging authority. In some cases this is also seen as a cultural predisposition. For example, “As the crews are 90 percent Indian Indonesian, there is a reluctance to speak out on some issues,” said one survey respondent.
Crews, from Eastern countries may find it disrespectful to dispute any decision or judgement taken by senior personnel, regardless of safety implications. However, this is not considered the case for Western crews, who have been observed to freely challenge their superiors.
One respondent noted a very different cultural approach to this, “In Indonesia I have encountered the ‘inshalla’ approach to safety – that God’s omnipotent will is behind everything that happens and therefore accidents are in the hands of the divine rather than under individual control to prevent.”
In order to understand how safety culture can contribute to accidents onboard workboats, three case studies were conducted as part of the study. They examined the safety culture onboard workboats that had been involved in an accident. The companies’ safety cultures were assessed based on a framework developed through a literature review.
The case study analysis established that many factors contributing to the accidents find root in the company’s safety management. This is even the case for those accidents which were primarily caused by equipment failure. In particular, incomplete or non-existent hazard identification procedures, lack of safety procedures or failure to ensure they are implemented, lack of communication about safety hazards and insufficiently trained crews were mentioned as factors contributing to the accidents.
After establishing the link between poor safety culture and accident causation, the research study focused on identifying to what extent a well-embedded organizational safety culture can contribute to safety leadership within the workboat industry.
Again, three case studies were conducted, this time of companies with above-average safety records, and the framework developed based on the literature review was used to assess each company’s safety culture. All three companies communicate safety as their top operating priority and, despite not being legally obliged, two out of the three companies had established a certified safety management system.
Communication of safety procedures and other safety-related information was found to be an important aspect and innovative ways were developed to achieve effective communication. All three companies established reporting mechanisms to encourage employee feedback and urged their crews to stop an operation they deem unsafe.
Based on the research study findings, recommendations were made for companies in the workboat and OSV sectors wishing to improve their safety records via establishing a sound organizational safety culture. It was suggested that companies focus on eight safety factors:
2. The empowerment of employees
3. Feedback systems
4. Mutual trust
5. Problem identification
6. Promotion of safety
8. Safety awareness
The study includes the recommendation that companies establish a safety management system following the principles set out in the International Safety Management (ISM) Code and adapt it to the company’s specific needs and circumstances.
The full version of the OSV Safety report is available to download here.